The Dinner Conversation

Saturday, December 22, 2012

What was the best thing you ate in 2012?

The other day I sat down to dinner at Dovetail but before I ordered I asked Chef Doug what I should order that I didn't have a picture of already. He instantly said, "Try the salmon. That salmon is a great dish."
I said ok but really I was thinking...come on. It's salmon! How special could it be? 

Dovetail's Grilled Salmon with
dill hollandaise
I guess I should have known better. We are talking about a dish by Chef Doug. When I sat down to dinner that night, I ordered the Farmhouse Salad and the Grilled Salmon. I. Was. Blown. Away. The salmon was topped with a dill hollandaise and it was fantastic! It came with herb infused Carolina Gold rice. This rice was so good that it could have been its own dish. It also came with a pea and corn relish that complimented all the other flavors perfectly. I have to apologize to Chef Doug for ever doubting him. My description doesn't do it justice. Trust me on this, just try it.

Shortly after that I read Gourmet Live's "The 53 Best Things We Ate This Year". It included picks from Hugh Acheson of 5&10 in Athens and Empire State South in Atlanta. He said the best thing he ate this year was the bologna sandwich at Au Cheval in Chicago. 

As soon as I saw the article my mind flashed backed to Dovetail's Grilled Salmon. I knew without a doubt that that was the best thing I ate this year. Then I began to wonder what others thought the best thing they ate this year was. So I turned to Twitter and began to ask some of the people we followed what their favorite dish of the year was. Here's what we learned about eating good in 2012.

Our very own Chef Doug Sanneman said the best thing he ate this year was the Goat Vinduloo and Lamb Chettinad at Bombay City here in Macon, Georgia.

L'Etoile's Foie Gras: photo courtesy of
Terrell Sandefur
The dynamic Macon foodie duo of Terrell Sandefur and Priscilla Esser both agreed that Chef Michael Brisson's foie gras at Martha's Vineyard's, L'Etoile was easily the best thing they tasted this year.

J.M. Hirsch, the Food Editor at the Associated Press and author of High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking, told us the best things he ate this year were meals prepared by Chefs April Bloomfield and Seamus Mullen. He also went on to name Tyler Florence's fried chicken as one of the best things he had in 2012. You can read more from J.M. Hirsch on his blog Lunch Box Blues.

Chef David Crews of MDCC Culinary School in Mississippi and Crews Culinary Investments said the Pimento Cheese Burger at Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford, Mississippi was his favorite this year.

Mama Erickson's meatballs: photo
courtesy of Michael Erickson
Michael Erickson, Director of Marketing for Fifth Group Restaurants which owns, La Tavola, Ecco, El Taco, Lure as well as others, says his Mom's meatballs were the best thing he ate this year. When asked if he minded if I quoted him in the blog he said, "Absolutely not! My Mom's meatballs deserve oodles of recognition." I agree. Nothing beats mom's cooking.

We heard from the music loving foodies at Kitchen Mixtape. They talk to chefs about music and they talk to musicians about food. Great idea because I know I love to listen to music while I cook. Their picks for the best thing they ate this year was the Lobster Laksa at Sky On 57 in Singapore and The Elvis waffle sandwich at Bruxie in Orange County, California.

Oysters Dovetail
I asked Moonhanger Group's co-owner, Chad Evans, what his pick for the best thing he ate this year was and without even blinking he named Dovetail's Oysters Dovetail. Then I said, "Now you don't have  to name one of our dishes. Think of every place you've been this year." He traveled quite a bit looking at how different restaurants he admired made their creativity work for them. He thought for a little bit and then looked back at me and said, "Oysters Dovetail". It's great when you believe in your own restaurant that much. It's easy to share a plate you believe in. Our Oysters Dovetail is a southern take on Oysters Rockefeller. We use Benton's country ham, collard greens, cornbread and aged cheddar. It's one of our most picked dishes for a reason.

Alexander Lobrano eats at some of the best restaurants all around the world and then he writes about what he's tasted for magazines like Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Conde Nast Traveler, as well as many others. He's lived in Connecticut, Boston, New York, and London and now he's living in Paris. So with all of that experience in tasting great food, I couldn't wait to hear what his picks were. He chose the Smoked Eggplant with tamarind peanut sauce at Makphet in Vientiane, Laos and the Parmesan Cream Ravioli at Glass Hostaria in Rome, Italy. You can read more about great food from around the world at his blog, Hungry For Paris. You can also read more in his book, Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City's 102 Best Restaurants.

I asked my good buddy and Macon's favorite morning weather meteorologist, Felicia Combs, what her pick for the year was and she told me about a Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookie Cake Bar recipe - be still my heart! - she found on Pintrest from Christy Denney's blog The Girl Who Ate Everything. Combs said the recipe was, "very simple, but the most indulgent dessert" she's found. She warns that they are very yummy but have a glass of milk on the ready when you try them.

David Dibenedetto, the Editor-In-Cheif of Garden & Gun magazine, said his pick for the best thing he's eaten this year was General Tso's Duck Skins from McCrady's Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina.

Atlanta Journal and Constitution Food Writer and blogger, John Kessler, took a trip to one of the world's most revered restaurants this year. He visited Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. Of all the wonderful things he tasted while he was there, he says the Reindeer Moss was his favorite.
We bite into clouds of fried reindeer moss that shatter into hundreds of crisp filaments and fill your mouth with something you recognize from ever having played in the woods, but never thought of as a flavor. It makes you want to kiss the person you’re dining with on the lips.
Now that must have been some amazing tasting food! Bravo, Noma.

Chris M Walsh, Executive Editor of Zagat/Google blogs, says though he, "didn't make it to Dovetail in 2012", the meals he had at Alinea in Chicago, Babbo Ristorante Enoteca in New York, and O Ya in Boston were at the top of his list. And we understand if he couldn't make it to see us because he was at those places. Those are some mighty fine restaurants. No worries, we'll have a seat for him whenever he can join us.

And lastly, Matthew Schoch, Senior Editor of PBS Food told me that the best thing he had in 2012 was the meal he enjoyed at Chef Jose Andres party at the Food & Wine 2012 Classic In Aspen. That could have been enough of a show stopper for me right there. Think about it. The Senior Editor of PBS Foods tells me he was at Chef Andres party at the 2012 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and he had the best food he had all year long. I'm sold. End of blog post.

But then Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods, also chimes in and agrees with Schoch saying the event is his favorite as well, "Every year."

You don't have to tell me twice (or I guess three times). I am already plotting how I can make it to Aspen in June for the 2013 Classic.
Hmmmm...I wonder if they need a DJ?

Looking forward to even better eats in 2013!
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Terrell Sandefur - SoChi Services - Part 1

Always interacting with social media, Terrell Sandefur
I recently got a chance to sit down and have dinner at Dovetail with Terrell Sandefur from the SoChi Gallery. Terrell is a busy man. Not only does he have a wife and two kids, but he's a driving force behind Macon's film festival, MAGA. He also runs SoChi Services, which provides promotions and social media management. And of course he runs the SoChi gallery, one of downtown Macon's beautiful event spaces. So, he's very rarely at a lack of things to do, but he knows how to make all of his time taking work fun. 

For example, as soon as we sat down at the table a server came over and sat a bottle of Vixen vodka in front of him and said, "This is for you." That's never happened to me before. Nor too often to him either from the surprise he displayed.

As we began talking, Terrell told me of a new client he recently picked up and has been managing their social media, Hanger On The Wharf, in Juneau, Alaska.

TS: I just got recently - two months ago - a new account in Juneau, Alaska. That's my furthest client away. But it's a restaurant, it's a big restaurant. And, you know, I'm not there! I'm learning how to promote food that I've never seen, smelled, tasted. It's not as easy as actually going to dinner and taking my own pictures and describing the quality. Because I have no idea, not yet anyway. They're flying me out there in the spring.

RR: That's cool.

TS: And it is unbelievably gorgeous out there.

RR: I'm sure. Any place in Alaska is going to be absolutely beautiful.

TS: And their restaurant is right on the water. It's right on the wharf. So you look out, when you're there, you see the wharf and then the mountains. And it is completely picturesque. It's a big place for cruise ships. They'll get a thousand people coming in the restaurant at one time.

RR: Oh my God! That's a restaurant nightmare. Even when we get tour buses and they stop outside, your heart stops and all you can say is, “Here we go.”

TS: It's weird how I got this gig. A friend of mine from Atlanta was out there and is friends with the owner. The owner graduated from Auburn. I'm not real sure how she ended up finding her way to Juno, Alaska but she's been there for a long time. And she has four restaurants out there. She was talking to my friend about how she's killing it and she has so many employees but where they're failing was in social media. And she says, "I don't have the time to do it and I don't know how to do it and our competition are real focused on it."

And my friend says, “I've got THE person for you. He's in Macon, Georgia.”

So she calls me on the phone and says, “How would you feel about running social media for a restaurant in Juneau, Alaska.”

I said, “I'd be all over it.” The next day she gives me a call and she hires me right then. So, it's been a bit of a challenge because my contact is not the owner but one of the managers. And I tell her, “I can do anything with a photograph. If you can get me a photo of the daily specials or the signature dishes, I can research and flower it up.”

RR: Photos drive Facebook more than anything else.

TS: Yeah. So I'm going to be out there. I'm going to be out there for several days with my camera, my iPad, I'm going to interview the chefs. And I'll have to do it all in a few days to last me months.

RR: Well once they see, while you're taking pictures and posting them out there and they see the response, they'll get more into making sure they send you pictures every day.

TS: I have pulled some pictures. I've searched Food Spotting, any kind of social media where they post pictures. But now I've pulled what I can pull. I've even posted on their Facebook page, “If you're dining with us tonight please check in on Foursquare or Food Spotting and take a picture of your dinner. We'd love to see it.” I'm baiting them.

RR: That's perfect, we do the same thing. We hear more than anything else, with The Rookery, the posting of the specials everyday gets people excited. They say, 'I've got to go down there. I've got to have that for dinner.' So pictures make a big difference.

**Just then Allan Bass walked up to tell Terrell about Vixen Vodka which is a Colorado distilled Vodka owned by three Atlanta, Georgia ladies. A representative had been trying to send Terrell, an avid vodka drinker, a bottle since they met at the Macon film festival but couldn't get in touch with him. Allan, a representative from Quality Wine and Spirits, happened to bring by a bottle for Dovetail to sample and then passed it on to Terrell at the request of of Vixen. This sexy, playful vodka has “wild times” written all over it. The idea for the vodka was conceived on a girls weekend at St. Simons Island.

We began to talk about our orders for dinner. Terrell was eyeing the smoked and grilled pork rib chop with a leek and shiitake savory bread pudding. I notoriously order the Put-Ups as an appetizer. This time I planned to order it again because Chef Doug Sanneman had just added a smoked trout dip to the line up and I really wanted to try it.

Ever the foodie and always thinking of promoting the places and items he enjoys, Terrell asked if we could go into the kitchen to take pictures of our orders because the lighting in the kitchen is so much better. Which led us to talking about some other restaurant marketing he has done in the past.**

TS: I did marketing for HendersonVillage in Perry, the country resort with an amazing restaurant. I did some serious chef dinners for three years. I'd do them every three months, where I'd bring in the hottest chefs from Atlanta, some from Savannah and a few from Macon, and they'd do a 6 or 7 course dinner. Each chef would do one course. I'd bring them down to Henderson Village which was great because I could give them a place to stay. So they'd have a room, a house, a cottage, or a room in an older house. See, Henderson Village brought all these old houses on what used to be a plantation. Some of them were slave quarters which means they were one room but they were redone and amazing. These chefs would come in for the publicity. I'd have Atlanta press and media come down. One time Food Network came down and filmed it. That was hot!

RR: I bet that was fun.

TS: All these food critics would come in to write and that's how I got these chefs. They would come in and do a themed dinner on whatever was in season. One year we did a pecan dinner. One fall we did a wild game dinner. I brought this guy in from Miami who was from Cuba. He hand rolled cigars at one event!

RR: Wow. That sounds amazing!

TS: And he was in an Armani suit! He wasn't a slouch. I did wild game, cigars and a scotch tasting at that one dinner. That was probably my favorite dinner. And they all sold out within minutes. Well, my first dinner it took me two weeks to sell 100 seats at $100 a ticket.

RR: That's still impressive.

TS: My second one sold out in two minutes. What I did was I sent one email blast to everyone who came plus other foodies. Everyone had heard about it so they were either pissed that they missed it or they were elated that they were there for the first one. So I think everyone who was at the first one came to the second one. And it just kind of rolled from there.

Now everyone is like, 'Why don't you do it in Macon?' But I don't have anywhere to put them up. I don't have a client that has a hotel that will give me rooms for free, which Henderson Village did. They said you can take these room and use it for press and for the chefs.

And I'll tell you. Several of the chefs went on to be on Bravo's "Top Chef" and a few of them won it.

RR: That's fun stuff.

TS: Richard Blais, he did two or three of them for me. A few years later I was in Atlanta at a Starbucks and Richard was there and I talked to him. And these girls were walking up and going, 'Richard, Richard!!' And I was like, “Well, you certainly have a lot of fans.”

RR: He's a rock star. He's a rock star chef right now.

TS: And he said, “Terrell, I'm on a TV show right now. You ever heard of Top Chef?”
I said, “Yeah.”
He said, “I'm in the top three right.”
That was the first year he was on it. I was like, 'I didn't know! Sorry! I don't really watch much television.'
Then I had Hector Santiago, who's got Pura Vida. Richard's got HD1 hotdogs in Virginia Highlands. They're basically next door neighbors and they were both on Top Chef!

** After we ordered another round of drinks we began to talk about Macon.**

RR: I think Macon is turning a corner. We've seen in the last five years, a lot of things change so much in Macon. With consolidation coming up on us and more people getting involved and doing things, I think we're looking at a period where Macon can take a really good turn. It's an opportunity for us to do really good for ourselves and make a really good showing.

TS: Obviously I'm a believer in the city. I'm a believer in downtown. I've been downtown since 2005 at the SoChi Gallery. I've seen a lot of cool new places open and few have closed really. It just takes time to get the local folks to come down here. What I think it's going to take to come downtown, it's going to be event driven.

RR: I agree. It's definitely something we see when Cherry Blossom happens, we're bust. Bragg Jam, we're busy. We just did the beer festival, it's something that drew people into downtown. Everybody benefited from it. I want to see the businesses do more about about working together to help each other. If there's something going on at one place, everybody promotes it because it brings people into downtown.

TS: That is one of Macon's failings. The lack of synergy. We have all these little groups that are doing their own thing. Why aren't they all working together? Everybody's got the same end goal but they aren't joining forces to make it happen. And I don't know how to make it happen.

Because if one of us wins, we all win. Not everybody can come and eat at The Rookery. It's not everybody's cup of tea. Or it may be your cup of tea today but not tomorrow. If there's options for people then it will become a destination. If they just come down for a Rookery burger and that's all they ever do downtown, then eventually they'll stop coming downtown. So we need to promote each other and support each other.

**Stay tuned for part two for my dinner conversation with Terrell Sandefur where we talk in depth about the Macon Film Festival and how it came to be.

The Macon Film Festival is coming up, Feb. 14-17, 2013. If you purchase and All Access pass before December 31st, you can get a discounted rate of $75 per pass. It includes access to all screenings, early seating to special screenings, and access to all officially sponsored after parties.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

New Year's Eve Menu

For New Year's Eve our Executive Chef has prepared a wonderful prix fixe, four course menu to celebrate the close of 2012 and the beginning of 2013. Dinner on New Year's Eve will be $85 per person and will include a glass of champagne served with the first course. Please join us for this fun, creative dinner on this night of celebration.

New Year's Menu:

Amuse Bouche
Grilled Quail Breast - dill carrot puree, Dijon mustard
served with glass of champagne

Choose one
Pecan Smoked Corn Chowder - paprika biscotti, buttermilk crème fraiche

Grilled Endive Salad - roasted beets, toasted pecans, heavenly blue, whole grain vinaigrette

Chili Rubbed Pork - pecan bacon pesto, persimmon jam, sherry cider vinegar

Curry Rubbed King Crab Legs -  aromatic Carolina rice, coriander crab hollandaise

Choose one
Smoked BBQ Chicken - fried potato salad, creamed collard greens

Butter Poached Shelled Lobster - triple cream brie grits, three sisters succotash

Coriander Crusted Venison Rib Chop - whipped bananas, goat cheese, poblano pear chow chow

Beef Filet - horseradish rutabaga mash, charred tomato hollandaise, asparagus salad

Dessert Trio
Smoked sea salted creme caramel - Tarte noir Pernod ice cream - Pomegranate sabayon donut shooter
Make your reservations now by calling 478-238-4693 or make them online at OpenTable.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Questions with DJ Shawty Slim

I was inspired by's DJ week interviews with DJs around the world about food. Since I am a DJ myself as well as a food lover, I figured I'd talk to some of my favorite DJs about their food experiences. My first interview of the kind is with DJ Shatwy Slim.

Shawty Slim is the tour DJ for Grammy Award nominated Hip-Hop artist B.o.B. He was born and raised in Atlanta, went to college at Fort Valley State University, and now lives in downtown Macon, Georgia. He's a regular at The Rookery when he's in town. You can usually find him on the left side of the bar with an Allman Burger. He has been able to stop by Dovetail once since it's been open and he left us a nice comment on Foursquare.

What's your earliest cooking memory as a child?

Grits! I was 6 and my dad said, "Today you become a man!" I thought he was teaching me to cook grits but he was really conning me into cooking breakfast in the future. Every Saturday morning he was like, "Hey, why don't you cook me some of them grits." After about three years of that I was like, "Hey man! You ain't made no grits in like three years!"

Do you have any pre-show eating advice?

Don't eat anything that will give you the bubble guts because you have to be on stage for an hour and the show's not gonna stop because the DJ has to go somewhere. I wish B.o.B. would turn around like, "Hey! ... Where did he go?" That's how you get fired, man.
Don't you go nowhere, Slim!

I don't drink before the show, at all. Maybe I'll eat some chips and lightly eat the fruit. Because fruit will take it's toll on you too. Like grapes will run through you, man.

What's the best thing your mom makes?

My mama hates to cook!  The best thing my mom makes is my auntie's cooking.

So if your mom comes home with your aunt's cooking?

Yeah! She hates to cook. But if there has to be one thing she cooks good, it's squash casserole, that I don't eat because I hate squash. But everybody be like, "Yo! Your mom makes the best squash casserole!" And I'm like, it looks like mush. ... Hi mom!

What's the best meal you cook? Still grits?

I could say grits. I have this special concoction I made up called "PASTA PA-YOW" -why you laughing?- This is what I do. Get you a whole box of fettuccine noodles and you boil them. And also get you one of those huge bags of steamed vegetables with the broccoli, cauliflower, and all that and get that going. Then I get a chicken breast and grill it on the Foreman. Then I cut it up. Then I get another skillet and get some shrimp and put it in there. So when the chicken's done and the shrimp's done, I put it all in a big bowl and put some Cajun seasoning and Italian seasoning and shake it up. Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake it up. By that time, the pasta's done. I got one of those huge skillets. I put the noodles in that and all the vegetables and all the meat, I put a whole jar of Alfredo sauce in there, and shake it up a few times and stir up a couple of times, PASTA PA-YOW!
That sound so bootleg don't it? It's good. It take about an hour to do it. It looks nice on a plate.
"You made this?"
"Yeah girl."

Who do you think parties harder, DJs or chefs?

DJs because we get paid to party so the average party don't make us move. When we go off, we go out.

Have you ever partied with a chef?

No. I'd be like, "This party's awesome!"
"Go make me some eggs!"

What are the three things that are always in your refrigerator?

So in the real world  the only thing in my refrigerator is stuff that doesn't go bad like ketchup...  .... that's all I got in there, ketchup, butter, ...That's it.

You don't even have three things, you have two!

Ok, I got a can of skunked beer in there.
Three things I'd like to have in my refrigerator is cheese, cuz I love cheese and cheese goes with everything. A bag of grits. And a random slice of pizza. That sounds so terrible. I should be dead eating all this stuff.

What's backstage at the show when you all do a show?

A nice meat and cheese plate. Some bread. Some nachos. One show we had Chik-fil-A chicken nuggets so we ignored everything else that was there. We murdered the chicken nuggets. But I try not to eat all heavy because after the show we're gonna go party and we be like, "We just rocked the show!" and I'm sweating chicken nugget juice.
I try to eat healthy because on the road you move around so much and party so late, you come back like I did. Man, I'm 10lbs heavier.

Is there anybody in your crew who's really into food?

Spicy crab from Temple St street vendor
B.o.B.'s manager T.J. is the biggest foodie I know. We tell him to write a food blog and he says he doesn't feel like it. But like we just came back from Hong Kong and he's like, I didn't come all the way over here to eat at McDonald's. He took us to a real street market and we had spicy crab on Temple St. They actually take the crab out the water and cook it right there on the sidewalk. Beat it up, cook it, throw the spices in there and bring it to you. They do it right there on the street with the cars going by and a million people were walking by.
But, yeah, everywhere we go he finds some food place off with the people.

Do you have any strange dietary habits?

Yeah, I have the worst eating habits of anybody I know and I haven't been sick in two years. I don't really eat candy and I'm not big on sodas. But if you give me a gallon of apple juice, it will be gone tomorrow. I'm a juice head - not steroids.

**Full disclosure. Two days after the interview, my twitter feed was filled with Slim talking about a bad cold he had caught and how to get himself better before he left town again. There were lots of references to orange juice and chicken soup. As I was typing this he was on his way to New York.**

DJs Shawty Slim, Wet Paint, and myself (Roger Riddle) will be playing The Rookery, 543 Cherry St, downtown Macon. On Dec 22nd.

Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

National Cookie Day - Royale Cookies Recipe

This could be one of the most important days of the year for me. It's National Cookie Day.

If you don't know me, I love cookies. I will hurt people close to me trying to get to a plate of cookies. Now, I'm not greedy about it. Cookies are so good they should be shared. Not to mention my mama taught me well. If someone is sitting next to me and I only have one cookie and they have none, I hear my mother's voice say, "Boy, you know better." Then I break the cookie in half and we both enjoy some cookie. I'd like to think one of my childhood heroes, that poet laureate of small, flat, baked treats, Cookie Monster, would be be proud.

"C is for cookie, that good enough for me," he would say.

I've known Dovetail's Pastry Chef, Ashley Dunn, for several years now. I remember when she left Macon to study her passion of baking. She's always been a rock star in my book and even more so when she returned to Macon with the secrets of how to bake my favorite dessert. Now that she works with us at the Moonhanger Group restaurants, I get to hang out with her and her delicious ideas everyday.

I convinced Ms. Dunn to share her recipe for my favorite cookie that she bakes for National Cookie Day. So without further ado, here it is. The Royale Cookie.

The Royale Cookie (AKA Roger's favorite cookies)
Makes 4 dozen


  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes (shreds are also fine)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl of mixer fitted with a padle attachment, beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light, smooth, and creamy. About 2 mins. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla
  3. In a seperate mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture into butter mixture just until blended. Add oats, chocolate chips, coconut and walnuts. Stir until just blended
  4. Drop batter by tablespoon or a 1oz ice cream scoop onto baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Press tops down slightly to flatten cookies evenly. Bake until golden, about 15 - 18 mins. Cool on pan for 2 mins. 
  5. Enjoy!

I did the hard work for you. I got her to give up one of her recipes. Now all I ask is that you think of a restaurant marketing guy once you make them.

Have fun!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chris Horne - Manager of Digital Content

Chris Horne really likes our Sweet Tea Ceme Brulee
There are few people in this town who are dearer to me than Chris Horne. Chris and I were roommates in downtown Macon for a number of years. We have argued and gotten mad with each other like none other can imagine. We notoriously get together on Monday nights to watch football and eat wings. We have shared success and disappointment in failure on several projects. We even got up very early sometimes to host early morning newstalk shows. We have seen each other grow into how we are known today.

A lot of people know Chris as, “Chris Horne, the underdog in the Ward I, Post III race for City Council on the East side of Macon”. However, I know Chris as a guy who is just passionate about his city. And about life. After all he grew up here. He started a lovely family here. He has a very talented wife, Heather Braun, who is a professor at Macon State College and a published author. Together they have a lovely toddler in young Miss Madeline Olivia. And since Chris and Heather share a passion for writing, they founded the “CrossroadsWriters Conference” that takes place each October, right here in Macon

Now-a-days we don't even talk about the city council race he ran. The hard fought fight is more than he ever wants to put his family through again, so he has no more interest in being directly involved in politics. Now he's the Manager of Digital Content for

We started out the evening with Lakefront Brewery's IPAs from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Chris, right off the bat let me know he was offended (read jealous) by the fact that he was not my first guest for the new blog.

CH: You had Chris Floore here last night? Was Chris your first interview for the blog?

RR: Yes.

CH: So Chris was your first one. Why - I'm just curious - did you pick Chris Floore first?

RR: Because he answered first. Everyone that I tried to get turned me down. And Chris was like, “Dinner at Dovetail? Hell yes!”

CH: Wait, someone turned you down?

RR: People were busy, it's the holidays so some people said they couldn't make it. Ben Jones (13 WMAZ Chief Meteorologist) said he was busy. The holidays and a baby on the way has him tied up.

CH: Wait, you asked Ben Jones? Before you asked me?

RR: You are one of my closest friends!

CH: And that didn't warrant asking me first? Like, “FIRST”! So you just felt like you were too close to me? So somehow not only does Ben Jones out rank me – which I get - but Christ Floore? Really?

RR: I didn't want it to seem like I was just inviting all my buddies out to dinner. I had this list of people who I wanted to talk to and they were all busy. I thought, yeah I can get my friends in here but let me mix them in so it doesn't just look like I'm just buying dinner for my friends. And of course then I had to call my friends and say, “Hey, can you come do this because this idea is not working?”

CH: No, I'm just kidding. I love Chris Floore. He's a great guy.

**Just then, our server Jessica stopped to check in on us to see if we were ready to order. We, of course, had yet to actually look at the menu.**

CH: So how does this work? Are you ordering for me?...

RR: We aren't on a date. I'm not ordering for you.

CH: If we were on a date, I wouldn't ask I'd just get that Carpetbagger For Two (Our 32oz porterhouse).

RR: Yeah, don't order that.

CH: So nothing below the Shrimp and Grits is what you are saying?

RR: The Shrimp and Grits are killer. It's got wild, Georgia caught, head on, shrimp.

**Knowing Chris the way I do, I felt I needed to warn him about the heads being on the shrimp. He has some curious eating habits, where I will give just about anything a try, he tends to shy away from some things. He has, of lately, been courageous enough to step out of his comfort zone and try some new things, for which I applaud him.**

CH: I'm glad you said that because I would have gotten that dish and then been like, “WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS SHRIMP?!”


RR: When you're finished you're supposed to suck the head, too.

CH: Uh-uh. Not getting it.

-More laughter-

Look, I worked my way up. I had those peppers. I actually ate the peppers (Our Braised Rabbit Rellenos are stuffed into poblano peppers.) when we were here. You were right, they were fantastic. Didn't even notice they were peppers but it's baby steps with me. I can try stuff but I don't want to ruin shrimp for me.

**Finally ready to order, we split a cheese plate. I ordered the Sea Scallop with pernod aioli, fennel leek slaw and UGA caviar, and a Braised Rabbit Relleno which is served in a charred tomato mole with queso fresco. Chris chose the Veal Tenderloin which comes with dill creamed corn, grapefruit and whole grain and micro mustard greens, and the Rocking Chair Ranch Carpaccio which is topped with pink Himalayan sea salt, cracked black pepper, olive oil, shaved cheddar, arugula, and apple cider vinegar. We also ordered a round of Lakefront Brewery's Fixed Gear amber ale. Chris surprised me by telling me he is now into darker more bitter beers when he once was an American pilsner drinker.**

Cheese Plate
RR: What have you run across (beerwise) that you keep going back to?

CH: The one that I keep going back to is Three Philosophers.

RR: By Ommegang. We have an Ommegang beer here called Rare Vos. It's a bit lighter and not as fruity as Three Philosophers but it is a really good sipping beer. It's an amber ale.

Veal Tenderloin
CH: If I have to go to Kroger and pick from their selection, I like Hopsecutioner.

RR: By Terrapin.

CH: Yes. I also like that it's a local, Georgia beer. I just found out that Winestyles in north Macon has a great beer selection.

RR: Yes. Winestyles and also Forest Hill Wine and Spirits, next door to Billy's Clubhouse, both have great beer selections. Forest Hill switches up their selection pretty regularly and it's all about mixing and matching. You grab an empty six pack and pick which ones you want to try.

CH: I love that practice. That's what I did at Winestyles and I got a couple of beers from Boulevard Brewing that I really dug. It was called the Smokestack Series.

**As we wrapped up our beer conversation, our cheese board arrived. The conversation turned to literature.**

RR: We have something that made me think of you the first time I saw it. We carry a Cabernet Franc called Writer's Block. It has Shakespeare on the label.

CH: Really? That's interesting. Have you heard of Jonah Lehrer? He's one of these guys I had a nerd crush on. He'd written some books, kind of like a Malcom Gladwell but more sciencey. He wrote a book called Imagine, How Creativity Works and I read that and I loved it. I thought it was great, but it turned out that he fudged on quotes that he used on Bob Dylan. Who's clearly one of the most well watch musicians in the world. Why would you fudge on quotes from Bob Dylan? It wasn't very smart. For a guy who everyone thought was very smart, he wasn't acting very smart. So, it kind of makes the whole book bunk. Which is sad because it was a really cool book about how not only creativity works in people but how it sort of evolves and these bursts of creativity in the world happens.

Like with Shakespeare, in England at that time they had this explosion in venues where you could perform theater. So everyone was a playwright. Like if we had an explosion in music venues, we'd have an explosion in musicians. People who want to make music now have a place to go.

So that was one of the factors. Another factor was that everyone was getting an education for the first time.They were able to read. Books were more prevalent. But it was just interesting the way he broke down how that all worked because the tendency is to think, 'Shakespeare was a genius,' and 'Shakespeare was unlike anyone else'. His argument was Shakespeare was unique. He was a little snowflake all his own but he had these environmental factors that played into why he was able to take that genius and do something with it.If he had been a genius playwright now, in 2012, in Macon, Georgia, or Milledgeville, or Nashville, Georgia, would he have been able to do what he did? Probably not.

So, if we had an explosion of venues for any kind of art form would that necessitate a revolution of art?

RR: Well, look at The 567. What it is. What it does. Their business incubator allows small businesses that aren't big enough to have a lease on a building of their own to have a small office in this complex that supports art and music. And look at Johnny Rohrbeck of Valor Candles. Here's a guy who has this little, small, tiny office and he's hustling hard all by himself. He's been traveling the United States showing off his product at the Emmy awards. So I guess you're right, if it's offered, someone will take advantage of it.

CH: Or if there's a platform or support. Because clearly if you just hand someone a bucket of money doesn't mean they'll do the right thing with it. Will they work as hard?

One of my arguments about how Macon produced this wave of great musicians was because it was hard. It could not have been easy for Little Richard who was cross dressing, from the wrong side of the tracks, and poor to settle in Macon and make a name in music. It wasn't like, 'The people of Macon loved music and he just made the best music and the people of Macon supported it.' It was, he wanted it so bad that it didn't matter that he was in Macon.

So at the same time that I'm saying that we should have more venues for businesses like Valor Candles, and for musicians and artists, maybe the fact that there never has been is good. Maybe the fact that it's really hard to get someone's attention is good.

**Stay tuned for the upcoming podcast with more from the conversation with Chris Horne, including a lesson in how to properly say the word “pecan”.**